essential things/ july 1999
Robert Prime 60-61 Warren Street London W1P 5PA
artists/ works/ galleries:
Darren Almond/ Dawn and Dusk/ 1997/ White Cube Angela Bulloch/ Basically The Answer is Yes/ 1999/ Magnani Liam Gillick/ Elevation Screen [floor piece]/ 1999/ Corvi-Mora Gary Hume/ Happy Painting I/ 1994-5/ White Cube Surasi Kusolwong/ Plug-In Buildings [Bangkok-London]/ 1999/ n.a.
Sarah Lucas/ Lion Heart/ Parkett edition of 30/ 1995/ Sadie Coles
Simon Periton/ Anarchy Doily [small]/ 1998/ Sadie Coles Gillian Wearing/ Dancing in Peckham/ 1994/ Interim Art Cerith Wyn Evans/ Mobius Strip/ 1997/ White Cube
Guy Mannes-Abbott/ Sing Song/ Crash/ Life is a Bridge/ Wind/ Bingham Canyon/ Imbecilic Contingent Intrusions two/ Richard one/ Pop Song/ To City/ 1997-99
In July 1999 a selection of e.things was exhibited at Robert Prime alongside visual art curated by myself and contributed with good heart by the artists above. The show was accompanied by the publication of a CD-ROM of the same texts; a then still-exotic but all-too-soon banal format.
For this exhibition I wanted to accompany my texts with existing works of visual art that embodied the spirit of the e.things as a whole. For the most part, these were works that had resonated with me over several years and would possess an independent presence amidst the texts. Together the artworks ‘stood’ as a show without my texts, but the texts articulated continuities and forged together works like Simon Periton’s Anarchy doily, Sarah Lucas’s, for once literally ballsy, Lion Hearts, with Cerith Wyn Evan’s Lacanian ‘loop’, for example.
Individually, I’d always remembered a sound piece of Angela Bulloch's from a show called 'Broken English' at London's Serpentine Gallery, in 1991. That piece was called 'Crowd Sound Piece' and involved three separate chairs; yes, no and maybe. Angela made a new bench piece for 'essential things', in which she used the old sound track to argue with herself and called it 'Basically the answer is yes'.
None of the art corresponds to any particular one of the texts but it all shares a very specific location with them for me: the domain of the e.things. None of the works is simply or merely what it appears to be -least of all Gary Hume's 'Happy' ‘sign’ which communicated so intimately with a near-guarantor of tears; richard one- and yet everything in the show was an affirmation of being dangerously alive.
imbecilic contingent intrusions [two]
“Smile”. Smile? Oh you're brilliant man. You are brilliant. Willie Lloyd Turner. Man you're brilliant. Oh let me celebrate you, let me empathise with that, let me share with you and declare that you. Are brilliant. Willie Lloyd Turner. Yes. Smile. You wrote. Smile it says with a goofy grin, crinkled eye and a set of wry brows. It's the Turner smile, the wriest old smile there ever was. A brilliant smile. It's what imbecilic contingent intrusions feel like. It's what one looks like -sure, but it's what it feels like, what it must feel like. And that's why you're brilliant Willie Lloyd Turner. You're the man who absolutely could have done and yet took the higher harder road and absolutely did not. Did not. You're the symptom in the system, the undeniable proof of an other world and maybe for that reason you did have to sit there on death row and write “smile”. Instead. Instead of everything. Oh you're brilliant Willie Lloyd Turner, ici. Smile. So that's what it feels like then, that's what an ici feels like. It's how it must feel. And you're the perfect example and brilliant brilliant that is. And you even said it, in your own life story typed on the same old type writer that you buried your brilliant smile in. You tapped out on that portable Smith Corona four hundred and seventy three pages and somewhere in amongst them, words etched on impossible dynamite, you said “go beyond reason, but never go against reason.” Oh yes. You're brilliant Willie Lloyd. I'm smiling, we're smiling for you here. Now. Smile, you said. Don't bother with anything less than transcending the damned system, don't muck down with it and struggle your way right into it's tightest midst where all the other rebel suckers are. Don't do that. Smile. Transcend it. Go beyond reason you said. Smile. Imbecilic contingent intrusion. Ici. Ici. On death row, the most hermetically sealed man made environment devised, you sat typing, prompt with your exercise and clear in your thinking. Finally. Too late. In a vacuum of absolute security in the most systematised human space on the earth. Or the most argued for and about, the most contested human space if not quite atomic in its systematised coordinates. But the opposite in most ways of what it means to be human. Sealed in, you were. Watched perpetually over days, months, years. Awaiting your death, walking bones, desperate, doomed, much much less than human. Going beyond reason. Smiling. Willie Lloyd Turner. Intrusive. Contingent. Willie Lloyd, on death row with the perfect escape kit, the perfect escaper's curriculum vitae, all the gifts that exceeded the space of your confinement. As demonstrated on many previous occasions, when you'd escaped, when you'd theorised fool proof escapes, when you even began one and got everyone else out but correctly fearing their appetite for retributive violence, returned yourself. With fantastic dignity. And despite the apparent final perfect security of it, despite the constant vigilance, despite all reasoned effort being applied. You could have walked out of there before they murdered you. You could have walked, with a free man's bones. You could have done that. You could have imploded or exploded, you could have given vent to an understandable human fury. You could have engaged in an act of war with reason which had reasoned your life away. But you went beyond that, you smiled, brilliantly and allowed me to celebrate you now. Imbecilic contingent intrusion. Willie Lloyd Turner. Who went to his lethal injection, who met his extremely discursive death eroded inside out on May 25th 1995 inside Mecklenburg Correctional Centre, Virginia. When he had a typewriter in his death row cell containing a loaded .32-calibre Smith & Wesson revolver and a bag of bullets carved with exquisite care into the carriage of the typewriter allowing it to work as normal, allowing it to have typed his four hundred and seventy three page brilliant bullshit memoir. Went to his death having written “smile”, on a small piece of yellow paper from the pharmacist on which is printed 'Tolnaftate 1%. Antifungal Cream. Kills.' And left that inside the Smith Corona. Imbecilic contingent intrusion. Went to your death like that leaving this exquisite puzzle that defies, that transcends, that goes beyond human reason. Goes beyond human reason which decided that it could take your life from you. Without much hesitation really despite your nine years -was it? on death row. You went beyond human reason which sealed you up in a permanent state of being about to be killed for a decade of your life. Willie Lloyd Turner. Imbecilic contingent intrusion. I'm here to say that you've turned the world upside down, you've turned my world, my heart upside down and I love you, I believe in you, I smile with you Willie Lloyd Turner. You're brilliant man. And I'm not going to dwell on the crimes that got you there in the first place for which you paid with your horrible frozen life. Not going to even detail them now, because you -with your smile, with your unused vengeance, unused perfect escape history, your antifungal cream - represent more than that. You're a symptom of why no amount of resources can maintain a regimented system for long, you are proof that the system doesn't exist, doesn't work and never can. You puncture that claustrophobic pretence of order, of confined human potential, of petty disgusting rule being, making, doing. You blow that all up in perfect angelic luminous silence. You're a model imbecilic contingent intrusion and you make me smile every time I think of you. You warm my heart and give me hope. Willie Lloyd Turner -ici- you give me hope.
life is a bridge
Life is a bridge. Life is a bridge it goes and therefore. Build no house upon it. Build no house. Life is a bridge, therefore build no house upon it. He says. The buddha. And it rings with amazing truth that line. In all its constituents. Life is a bridge. It is. A bridge going out into the beyond of everything continuously reaching out and over to where ever. It'll bridge any gap, canyon or space you can imagine. Life is a bridge and you are its girders, you and your will. Me and mine. My strength pushes the bridge of my life out into billions of years of time. And curls up with momentary embarrassment at my soaring saying that. Life is a bridge and you must go anywhere you can will yourself to go. Which may be close by and it may be up and over, down, under or out. It may be a nanosecond away or it might yet live on through human lifetimes. It's what being alive is; this bridging, this lovely leap of the bridge, and the structure that you make you will leave and it will tell all your secrets. Life, your life, my life is a bridge. It follows he said, logically. Which is odd, I think. Allying logic to will. I immediately recoil at that point. Recoil, recall my absolute trust in this sub-clause, let's say. The logical therefore. Build no house. Therefore build no house. Now that I can cheer and shout out from my rooftop here. Life is a bridge therefore build no house. Yes. That must be it, go on forever creating anew. Risk everything always in perfect parabolas of bridging elegance. Yes. I mean it when I say yes, yes I'm there with that. Build no house upon it. Life is a bridge therefore build no house upon it. Yes. I'm all passionately inside that line, that sentiment, that description of perfected will. Humble humanity, delusion-less time spent, constantly rising horizons. Yes. I'm there and always have been. Even in my house. ?Because you've got to have a house. I've got to have a house, even if it's one on a bridge. I can make of a bridge a house, I mean. And I have. The house, the material house is not the point. It could be and I've thought it was and I've bitten tongues. But it's not the house, it's not the bricks. Though it could be. He wrote it in nomadic times and it would be dull to take it literally. Hence my suspicion of the logical therefore. I love this line, I love this sentiment and it's a good thing to carry with you always in its literal state. But it's more far reaching, more profound and more demanding if you take its spirit for its literal heart. Life is a bridge therefore build no house upon it. Build the house of self in the bridge of the sentence. That's what it means. Build as you bridge but always bridge. Bridging is a form of non literal building anyway. I build by bridging, and I do mean this seriously. Make yourself. Up. I realised tonight as I went out bridging, clearing the ground to leap higher and further and more purely than before. Tonight. I realised that the inhabitation is in the sentence. Not just the literary sentence though it includes that. But the building of a home in this sentence confounds it but also embodies it. That is where my head and heart is, in the perpetual bridging within this sentence. I build my house exactly there. On the bridge in that sense. Life is a bridge therefore build no house upon it. Build it with the sentence, in the act of bridging. Bridge build. If life is a bridge it builds to a parabola of perfect yearning. It builds a higher horizon. Life is a bridge, therefore build no house upon it. Yes. That's the purest sentiment that I can think of. It means everything to me literally. It means don't sit still, it means never ever think you're there yet. It means don't scream about it too soon. It means die with a great hunger. It means life is a bridge therefore do not accrete. Life is a bridge therefore keep pure, underlined three times. Strip back your eyes and skin and heart and mind always and therefore build no house on it. It means only sit on sugar chairs, in meringue cars, spend toffee money, believe in marzipan gods, repeat after me butterfly wings. Life is a bridge therefore take a long run and jump. Life demands the impossible; a bridge of wild fanciful flight. And you do it in your head. By the way. In your head. Life is a bridge therefore don't burden it with fixed thoughts, but fly high and dangerous. And die, before you reach the other side. The unhoused bridge is the other side. Life is a bridge therefore you must die upon it. That's what it really means. You must fall from life's bridge with your final breath -a perfect specimen of open ended flight. A bridge. No house. A bridge is all. A bridge is constant motion towards an undefinable but deliberate horizon. Or its nothing. Or it's a house. Which is worse. Life, then. Life is a bridge therefore build no house upon it.
to city [with accompanying stills left]
Sometimes I genuinely believe that there is no better place in the world than Waterloo Bridge. Today. Today I thought that, believed it. Knew it even. Not the bridge itself. No. Not the concrete -smooth though it is. But the place, the space, the locale. The way that Waterloo Bridge is city. It is the city, it stands for cityness. If ‘to city’ were a verb like to castle, the name of its game would be Waterloo Bridge. So quintessence of city: Waterloo Bridge. And why? And how? Well, I’m snatching at it now. Waterloo Bridge qua city. City in utero Waterloo bridge. Waterloo Bridge, city city. But it’s not just the modern city; no signs, no flaneur, no wandering necessary at all. Waterloo Bridge city is not only a postmodern city either -in spite of Charing Cross Station. It’s beyond that, though it’s apparently watchable in a passive way. It also apparently offers inane choices. But something about Waterloo Bridge. Something about the way ‘that Waterloo Bridge is city is to do with its unique story of Britishness which is all there apparent. British history now is there all around; seen to be extremely tangible. Up for grabs. It’s a history lesson, in Britishness, in cityness, in resilient nature too. The single most distinctive thing about Waterloo Bridge is that it stands astride a great river, bringing water from the middle of England to seas shared with Northern Europe which were once the conveyor belts of Empire. And below it the massive shrinking and swelling tides of the sea are performed daily for anyone watching. And, which came first. Now though, it incises -commonsensically and philosophically- the city, the centre, splitting it in ways actually uninteresting in terms of analysis, I think. It’s just that there is a river running straight through a great city and Waterloo Bridge holds it together, sutures the city, thus in a sense making the city. Today though. Today then, with the river and its tide came the sun setting over the weird confectionary chiaroscuro of parliamentary England. Democracy in the House today, that Ferrero Roche somehow away from the pack, coated with Pugin’s leaves. Au naturel. So there was that, but there were also cranes. Planes, cranes and automobiles. But cranes, mostly a returned flock of cranes on every side putting a notion of money into the sky again. But matching the cranes plenty today, was the almost complete absence of words, of direct signs. So, apart from Othello flashing cut-price red dots and the still cheaper tower of Oxo, IBM’s subtle interface, the White House offering Panoramic Views from Luxury Apartments, and a lisping Objects of Desire almost below it in the Haywood, the city was struck dumb. Which is good I think. So you look instead at the layers of city, and the layers are the quintessence of city, which is what is missing in the centre of unbombed Paris. London doesn’t suffer from too much grace but is tangible history, which in this sense is the tangible present. It removes from you the choice of not looking, not noticing or deciding, because everything is in your view, and those layers make every view productive of meaning. That is what is so essential about Waterloo Bridge. Waterloo Bridge, all citied-up, over-citied, underpassed. Waterloo Bridge. Concrete there, con or sin texture? Turquoise roofs, the Barbican’s Shakespeare Tower, blue City beacons and Centrepoint, St Paul’s so strange opposite Bankside’s square head and hugely erect Canary Wharf shadowing Cleopatra’s Needle down below. All there, Fifties, Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, time over there, and time behind and in front, a century to the left and two more on the right. And then, what the Twentieth century has taken away it’s given back in other forms. Literally. So Oxo, Othello, and Objects of Desire. The city, the only city, the most city-like city in the world now. Because the city is not modernity or postmodernity but all and more, it is layers of time and the more layers there are the more future it has. So London bristles with futurity today, strangely. Strangely because it runs so counter to the prevailing tide of Britishness. But London is more futuristic than Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo which are all recognisably present, if only because it has the evident momentum in front of you, of us, in front of me now. On Waterloo Bridge. And it’s uniquely of this moment because it can only be fully experienced in three hundred and sixty degrees, with impossibly complete perspective. Which is what removes passivity from these layers of images of time, images and images. Turn, swirl ecstatic on Waterloo Bridge and you’ll settle in the future. Turn in ecstatic circles under a proper moon and you’ll never want to do anything else. I sometimes wonder whether Waterloo Bridge is not the best place in the world. But at night, magnificently drunk, relentlessly high or more sober than I’d previously thought possible, under the moon at three hundred and sixty degrees I no longer wonder because I know. There is no better place in the world than Waterloo Bridge. London Town. So let’s ban day-time crossings and save up the weeks so that we can all of us meet under the full moon on Waterloo Bridge on a three hundred and sixty degree trajectory in time and know -all of us together- that there is no better place in the world than Waterloo Bridge. Know with ecstatic open mouths that there is no better place than the present tipping into the future. Like falling angels. No place better to see the future right now. No better place to city. But Waterloo Bridge.